Generational Workplace Stereotypes Debunked!

The word “Millennial” has been thrown around a lot in recent years. You may have seen a report discussing Millennial trends on the local evening news, or heard coworkers talking about “those damn Millennials” over coffee. But what is a Millennial? And why does everyone seem to have an opinion on them? A Millennial is widely thought as of being someone born between the years 1980-1999, give or take. These people are now 20-30 somethings and make up a large part of the current workforce. Millennials are known to be technology focused, otherwise known as iPhone obsessed. Older generations are seemingly addicted to discussing Millennials, and more often than not, criticising them: classifying them as a group of people who are lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed.

While this is not the first time in society that the younger generation has gotten branded in a negative way by older generations, and it surely will not be the last, the Millennial bashing has come with heaps of harsh stereotypes.

As a Millennial, I have some objections with the stereotypes that often become synonymous with our label. While stereotypes do exist for a reason, and there is usually a correct connotation between a stereotype and the reality, a stereotype does not paint a complete picture. Because of this, a narrative gets told that leaves out crucial parts of a story. This incomplete narrative cannot speak for everyone that a label represents. In order to test some of the pre-conceived notions that people have about Millennials, Benojo conducted a survey that tested not only Millennial stereotypes, but stereotypes of all generations. People of all ages, working classes, and nationalities were invited to participate. The survey’s results aid in creating a more efficient workplace as we can better understand how people of different generations work. Below is a brief summary of the findings and what these findings can teach us.

In total, 69 people completed the survey. Of those 69, 22 people identified their nationality as being Australian, 36 identified as American, and 11 identified as another nationality. 40 of the respondents were between the ages of 18-37 while 29 were between 38-66. 71.0% reported they were employees, 7.2% reported as employers, 13.0% reported as unemployed, and 8.7% reported as other for their employment status. 

The questions we asked addressed stereotypes that are often correlated with either people in the Millennial generation or in Generation X. For the purpose of the survey, a Millennial was considered to be someone born between 1980-2000 and a Gen X’er was someone born between 1960-1979. Many respondents, regardless of their background, cited their answers based on experiences with the people being asking about, not just what they have read or heard about them. An example of this is seen in a response given to a question about Millennials loyalty to their employers. This participant identified as an employer born between 1960-1979; "My response is based on observations about my children and associates at my law firm."  

The biggest surprise that I found occurred in the responses to the statement “If employers donated to causes Millennial employees cared about, employees would be more motivated” which directly relates back to last week’s blog post topic, which you can read here. 57.8% of respondents agreed with this statement, 18.7% disagreed, and 20.3% felt neutral towards this. When explaining their answer, many people did not believe this would necessarily have a factor on employees. Others, who agreed with statement, backed it up by citing Millennials, in general, are very aware of what is going on in the world because of social media, and care a lot about different causes, so employers backing up their personal causes, would in fact motivate them.

All of the answers led to one conclusion: people do not fully understand what is happening in another generation. In general, people like to believe that their generation is superior. Call it wishful thinking or plain ignorance to facts, but the one thing that is true across the board is people defend other people of their own age group by stating they are supreme. Instead of forming your opinion on a whole group because of an interaction you may have had with one or two people, try to enter each scenario with a blank slate. Stereotyping is ultimately what holds us and our companies back as it does not allow us to fully see the potential someone may bring to the table.

This concept relates directly to the first pillar of “What Successful Companies Are Doing.” The pillar “Ask Yourself” prompts you to take a step back and reflect on what you are doing, how you are doing it, and why are you doing it the way you are. Ask yourself why you have a preconceived notion of a co-worker and how that stereotype is interfering with the work that person is doing. I have learned that sometimes the key to making a positive change is done simply by reevaluating what is already in place.